African Americans disproportionately say that a family member or close friend has died of COVID-19 or respiratory problems since March. This emerges from a series of surveys that have been conducted since April and show how black Americans have borne the brunt of the pandemic.
Eleven percent of African Americans said they were close to someone who died from the coronavirus, compared with 5 percent of Americans overall and 4 percent of white Americans.
The results are based on data from three COVID Impact surveys conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago between April and June for the Data Foundation on the effects of the pandemic on the physical, mental and social health of Americans.
While surveys recently conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research have shown that black Americans are particularly likely to know someone who has the virus, the new data from COVID Impact Research describe the consequences of the pandemic for black Americans.
Existing conditions and limited access to health care were identified as reasons why black Americans were particularly vulnerable to the virus. Experts and medical professionals say that the long-term effects of structural racism and generational trauma on black Americans in the centuries after slavery cannot be ignored either.
"The health inequalities we see here are nothing new because we start in a place where we had black women during slavery who were enslaved and experimented by white male doctors," said Dr. Uché Blackstock, former associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine and founder of Advancing Health Equity. “So our health system is based on racism, and our communities have essentially become ill through racism. We carry the highest disease burden in almost all parameters. We were already in a crisis. "
The COVID Impact surveys show that racial differences are equally striking in some cities and states that are particularly badly affected by the virus. In Louisiana, 16% of black adults are close to someone who died compared to 6% of white adults, according to surveys. Blacks make up approximately 33% of the state's population, but account for 53% of the state's nearly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the state health ministry.
The differences are the same in several metropolitan areas: 14% of black adults in Atlanta have a deceased family member or close friend compared to 4% of white adults. The comparison is 12% vs. 4% in Baltimore, 15% vs. 2% in Birmingham, Alabama and 12% vs. 4% in Chicago.
26 percent of non-white New Yorkers report that a family member or close friend died of COVID-19 compared to only 10 percent of white adults in New York City.
An Associated Press analysis of data from state and local health departments across the country found that more than a quarter of all COVID deaths across the country were black victims – nearly twice the black population in the areas studied. Early June data included nearly 87,000 deaths in which the race of the dead was known in 38 states and in Washington, DC.
Inequality was even greater in a number of states – in Michigan, for example, black deaths per 100,000 black people were four times the white deaths per 100,000 white people.
"I think we will have a national conversation, not just about these inequalities, but also about how we come to solutions, because it is not just about what is happening, it has really been about structural racism, implicit bias for decades. discriminatory housing policies and the like, ”said Dr. Patrice Harris, the immediate former president of the American Medical Association and the first African American woman to be elected president of the organization.
Harris said the AMA launched a Center for Health Equity a year and a half ago to address implicit bias at the medical and institutional levels. During the pandemic, many stories of black patients emerged, explaining how doctors ignored or failed to meet their needs, which some experts suggest indicates historical mistrust of the medical system.
“With COVID-19, we've heard the stories or some data that says black men in particular are more likely to get advice from another black doctor, or that there have been studies in which our younger colleagues believe the myth that blacks don't Feel pain just like whites, ”said Harris. "AMA will lead these discussions and ensure that everyone has information so that we can address issues related to implicit bias and discriminatory practices."
The nation also has to deal with the psychological trauma of the pandemic, coupled with the economic consequences, the unrest after several high-profile murders of African Americans and the experience of black grief on a large scale, said the University of Michigan health behavior and health education professor Enrique Neblett.
Neblett, who examines the interface between racism and health, said that many African Americans could be dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
"It's the confluence of all of these factors, and it's not just a thing or two, and it really puts a lot of strain on the black psyche," said Neblett. "We know that there is scientific evidence that if you experience losses at unexpected times, it shows that this is related to poorer health outcomes later in life. I think these effects can be cross-generational."
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